Today I was able to confirm the authenticity of this email sent by actor Jason Alexander to SAG members:
hello my friends and colleagues,
like many or most of you, i have been struggling over the state of our union’s current negotiations and the upcoming ballot to authorize a strike. it is a very complex issue at a very complex time. i have received emails and missives from several people of integrity, representing several aspects of the thought process.
for better or worse, here is my response. i offer it for your own thought process, neither to advocate for or against, but merely to weigh.
our screen actors guild, from my perspective, is in a very precarious position. we have been for many years. we have internal fractures that factions that cannot seem to find common ground and often cannot find common courtesy. we have had long standing relationships, like our agency franchise agreements, lost. we have seen our relations with our sister union, aftra, equally degraded.
additionally, our industry is undergoing enormous seismic shifts. i’m sure i do not need to point out that the pillars of our television and film systems are crumbling. a new technology is emerging to challenge the traditional formats and models. we are finally becoming an industry of the 21st century, but we are still tenaciously holding to structures from the 1900’s – structures of production, distribution, accounting, financing, etc. the necessity for “professionals” in the entertainment industry is being constantly challenged.
in a time when i believe all the creative unions should be sitting down with the producers and joining together to protect our mutual interest in keeping our industry professional and profitable, we instead pursue selfish self-interest and the marginalization of each other. we don’t need the outside world to destroy us, we can do it ourselves.
however, sag has a very current dilemna and it needs a resolution. to strike over issues that are real and legitimate, or not. our best interests are not being represented with the current offer and our reps feel that only austere behavior can move this negotiation forward. but the reality is that to do so, we would subject our entire industry to a work stoppage during the most catastrophic financial times in the last 50 years. can sag afford to be the nail in the coffin while being so close to being the corpse inside it?
my personal feeling is – no. i cannot in good conscience vote to take a stand that i know will stop good men and women from earning their livings at this time. i cannot stand on a picket line and prevent grips and gaffers and technicians and operators and caterers and office staff from earning their livings. i can’t send jobs that should be under sag contracts scurrying over to the even worse conditions of an aftra contract. i cannot tell people who are struggling that i come first. i just cannot.
what i am willing to do is accept a lesser contract and ride out these most turbulent of times. or better yet, i would ask our reps to accept the best version of the current deal but only for an 18-24 month limit. at that time, sag would have first and best crack at establishing a realistic contract going forward, instead of being the last guys into the pool. the dga sets the bar in each negotiation and we get relegated to those parameters all the time. let’s be the first union in going forward, instead of the last.
also, during those 2 years, we could and must focus on the two issues that diminish us the most – the vast internal chasm of our own union and the ever-growing gulf that divides us from ourselves in aftra. we must repair our houses. if our own ground is not firm, how can we possibly expect to make a stand for others? we have work to do, not work to stop.
we can survive a few years of less than perfect compensation in order to do the hard work of mending our own broken bones. we need to support each other. we need to understand each other. and we need, more than ever to work together with our fellow creative artists to protect each other and our industry as a whole. that is the best and greatest work we can be doing right now. not drawing lines in the sand over digital residuals.
yes, proper compensation is vital. yes, there are issues to fight for. but we are not an army ready to stand alone right now. nor are our allies ready to support us in that fight. so before we take arms, let’s pause and rally our troops, truly understand what we are fighting for and stand together. for that, we need time, focus and some very hard work.
i am voting no to strike authorization for now. we have other work to do. i wish you all a happy, healthy, peaceful, successful holiday and i look to our new year, and our new country with optimism and hopefulness.